May 25, 2016

Spiritual Lessons From a Lake Travis Tragedy

[This is a guest post by Norine Shaivitz.]

Ten years ago today, I opened the newspaper and saw the story I had very briefly covered the day before took a turn I wasn’t expecting. Back then, I was a news anchor at a radio station and the day before had been busy. The few reporters we had were off covering other stories when I got notice someone had been killed in a jet ski crash on Lake Travis.

Lake Travis

I made some phone calls and got the preliminary story, but news reporters at the scene were able to find out an important detail I couldn’t by phone: The man who had been killed in the crash was a Catholic priest. Father Todd Reitmeyer was a priest serving in South Dakota and he was in Texas visiting family. My heart ached for this loss. When you are a Catholic, every priest is your father. So, I lost a father too.


My small newsroom couldn’t send a reporter to the funeral. I covered it remotely and found out the homily for the funeral Mass in Buda would be posted online. In that recording, I listened as a priest told the story of Father Todd, a man who decided to live his life always ready to die in a state of grace. Father Todd had said death could come suddenly, so it was important that he go to confession. He went at least once a week, sometimes more often. He wanted to go straight to Heaven.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 - For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.
In Catholic theology, friends of Jesus don’t always go straight to Heaven. Revelation 21:27 says, “Nothing unclean will enter.” So if you are a friend of Jesus and there is a sin on your soul, we believe purgatory is the place to get cleaned up before the “wedding supper (Revelation 19:7).” Father Todd wanted to skip purgatory and go straight to the party. He was living his entire life for Heaven. In fact, he had been to confession the day before he went out on Lake Travis, “just in case” something happened to him.

That next Lent, I made the effort to examine my conscience and go to confession once a week.  At that time, I was aware that Catholics are required to make at least a yearly confession. But going once a week made me realize something: I sin. I sin a lot. There was not a week during which I had nothing to confess. When you don’t go to confession as often, you aren’t very accountable. You hardly notice that you sin. When you confess often, you realize you sin a lot.

[Please click over to ATX Catholic to read the rest of this story.]